Sabres rookie a feared giant

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Tyler Myers lived in Texas until he was 10 years old.

He spent the last three years in Kelowna with the WHL Rockets.

The year before, he played midget hockey at Notre Dame College in Saskatchewan.

Still, tonight's game against Calgary has that something special for Myers, the Buffalo Sabres rookie whose family lives in DeWinton, just south of the Stampede City.

It's against his hometown team. Against the franchise, and a handful of remaining players he cheered for madly in the 2004 NHL playoffs.

"It's different playing them now from being that kid in that playoff run who was in the stands cheering," Myers said yesterday. "I remember watching these guys and looking up to them. It'll be a different feeling playing them, but I'm excited for it."

When the Sabres and Flames hit the ice tonight, though, it'll be the Flames literally looking up to him.

The teen is built more for basketball than hockey with a towering 6-foot-8 frame, which is what he'd probably be playing had his father not moved to Calgary nearly a decade ago.

"I started playing hockey when I was six years old," he said. "It was nowhere near as good hockey (in Texas) as it is in Calgary and when we moved, it was good to a city with so much passion for hockey."

The city of Buffalo is starting to fall in love with Myers.

With his size, you'd think the big blueliner would only be a defensive force. However, he's tied for fourth on the team with eight points (3-5-8) and, until their last game, was the only Sabres defenceman with a goal.

He even scored the shootout winner in a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay last month, finishing it in the sixth round with an incredible deke.

That offensive touch is the continuation of a concerted effort last season while helping the Rockets to the WHL crown.

"I wanted to not only make the team coming into camp, but I wanted to be a contributor," Myers said. "I think the second half of last season with Kelowna, I really started to figure out I could play an offensive role on teams.

"I started to come to my own on how to produce points and what to do in certain situations in the offensive zone, and I tried to take that into Buffalo. It's been going well so far. I want to make sure I keep playing with the intensity that allows me to get those opportunities to get points on the board.

"It's a long season, but I want to keep that going."

It's been an incredible 12 months for Myers.

He won gold at the world juniors, where his partner was Flames prospect Keith Aulie.

He helped the Rockets upend the Calgary Hitmen for the WHL championhip.

Along the way, he elevated his game to the point he was able to jump to the NHL, despite being only 19.

"The world juniors was a turning point in my hockey career," he said. "It showed me I can play with the best players in the world at that age. Coming back to Kelowna after that, I wanted to do more. I had people telling me, 'You're playing well, but there's still more to give.' In a way, I kind of got sick of hearing that and put it in my mind I was going to bring it to another level."

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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